Ohio Wesleyan University students think outside theater for fall performances

PAUL COMSTOCK
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As students returned to Ohio Wesleyan University last week, the school's department of theater and dance was using some innovations to plan events during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"Inter/Sect," a four-part series of original performances created by OWU students, will combine a small audience with livestreaming.

"Orchesis," an annual OWU dance program, will forgo the stage to use nontraditional spaces, livestreamed pieces and dance films.

Ares Harper, a 2019 OWU graduate, will facilitate and lead "Inter/Sect" in collaboration with OWU instructor Bradford Sadler.

"The piece is going to ask students to generate material based on their experiences with the huge social issues we have been going through in 2020," said Sadler.

"Inter/Sect" will be held the first weekend of October, Harper said.

Each of the four parts will have a different focus, dealing with race, gender sexuality, mental-health disorders and death as related to COVID-19, Harper said.

He said students have been asked to use a pizza motif in crafting their submissions for "Inter/Sect."

For example, if a submission takes a pessimistic view of race relations, that's the pizza's protein, he said. If the submission is in the form of a sketch, that's the pizza's cheese. If the sketch depicts a "Racists Anonymous" meeting, that's the pizza's topping.

Submissions might be comedy, a song parody or a dance, he said.

The program is a chance for students to put their creative talents to use, Sadler said.

"I'm impressed every day by the level of creativity and the different skill sets that students bring to their creative work with our department and in their own work that they do for themselves," he said.

"That's one of the reasons I love teaching: to be connected with students who have all these great abilities and creative talents," he said. "I think it's great that we'll be able to bring that together to help them create something in the midst of these tough circumstances were all living in.

"We just have to work together to figure out the best and safest way to share it."

Harper said "Inter/Sect" will use ensembles of students involved in writing and editing the material, acting and performing technical tasks.

In past years, he said, OWU instructors have performed in the program.

He said the program's segments might resemble "Saturday Night Live," but "much more pointed and political and theatrical. ... It will be creative, fun, innovative."

When arrangements are complete, details about the program schedule and livestreaming will be posted at tinyurl.com/intersectowu, Sadler said.

The "Orchesis" dance program tentatively is scheduled to take place over three weeks in October and November. The schedule will be announced on the "Orchesis at Ohio Wesleyan University" Facebook page.

OWU instructor Rashana Perks Smith said this year's "Orchesis" will involve "trying to find different places on campus where we could show work.

"The thing we'll do when we meet the first time is take a little tour to see what we can imagine on campus," she said. "It might be live performances from rooms and houses. What can we do so that we see dance on campus in a way we usually don't get a chance to see? ... Maybe it's walking down the middle of campus and it's only a two-minute piece. ... I'm really charging the students with the task of how can we be seen, how can movement be seen on campus.

"I'm actually pretty excited about it, to be honest, because of the possibilities," Perks Smith said. "I always like it when we can see things from a different angle for dance. I don't think everyone always wants to go to the theater."

OWU's theater and dance department plans other student events for the fall, including play and sketch readings by senior Adam Lieser of Columbus.

For the latest OWU theater and dance information, visit owu.edu/theatreanddance.

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